My wife and I went to see “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Centerstage last Thursday. We stressed all week searching for a babysitter, then rushed like crazy to get to the theater on time. Brenda fell asleep at the beginning of the second act, and, by the 10 pm bows, I was struggling to stay awake too. We gave up on our pipe dreams of going out for a drink after the show and headed home.
And still, we had a great time. The show, which I’d never seen or read, was enormously entertaining. The principle actors were fantastic, and it was great to see our friends at the show. But, above all that, it was just nice to be out, dressed up, among adults. I don’t think Brenda and I have been to the theater (without puppets) since our son Jack was born over three years ago.
Hard as it may seem for us to remember, Brenda and I were once considerable patrons of the arts. She’s a published poet who was always going to readings and performances before we moved from New York last year. We have a lot of artist and photographer friends and would often go to their shows and gallery openings. We both love theater, music and film—there was a time when I had usually seen most of the movies playing at the Angelika, New York’s most prominent arthouse theater, a la the Charles. Now, I’ve rarely even heard of the movies there. Since having kids, we rarely have the time to explore as we once did. And as much as I love our children and the joy they’ve brought us, I occasionally miss the cultural exploration that was once such a big part of my life.
Most recently, I thought about this after a couple of Monday morning “how-was-your-weekend” conversations. First, I talked to my sister, who is unmarried, kid-less, and lives in Chicago. She talked about trying a great new restaurant, going gallery-hopping, and seeing a great show. I had a similar conversation with Max Weiss, Baltimore’s managing editor. She had been to D.C. to play cello with her sister, went to her favorite brunch spot there (Cafe Deluxe), and saw the Angelika-worthy Coco Before Chanel. My weekend was just as packed, but every activity seemed to involve face-painting.
Of course, most of the time, when I reflect on my life and where I am now, I’m struck by how lucky I am. I have found the love of my life in Brenda. And we have created two incredible little boys, who cause me to shake my head in awe almost every day—something I almost never did pre-kids, even with all that stimulating art.
And the more I think back on my culture-infused former life, the more I realize that I’ve idealized it quite a bit. Yes, I certainly did have a lot more cultural experiences, but I was also bored and lonely a lot of the time, wondering if I’d find true love and purpose in my life (too many arthouse films, perhaps.) Truth be told, once I met and fell in love with my wife, my culture quotient dropped precipitously, even before we had kids. All we wanted to do was hang with each other, talk, cook dinner and watch movies on DVD (we used to wear Netflix out, exchanging movies several times a week. Now, the same Netflix Wire DVD has been sitting on top of our TV for almost a year. I curse myself for not quitting Netflix every time I see it.) True, we don’t watch movies like we used to, but we still try to find time to hang out. And when we do, there’s no place I’d rather be.
It’s funny, in the middle of writing this post, I came across a recent New York Times blog item on a very similar topic, the inevitable comparisons we make with our peers and the consideration of paths not taken. As I began to read it, I worried that it would depress me, making me again think about the things that I miss about pre-family life. But, happily, I found it affirming. Despite all the drawbacks, I truly wouldn’t trade my current life for anything (though the writer’s observation that every parent reflexively says that—perhaps out of fear of their life’s inherent inflexibility—is funny and true).
And I dream of a time when Brenda and I will again take more full advantage of the cultural world that surrounds us. I mean, these people go to college at some point, right?